Krzysztof Żuk, Source: Lublin Municipal Office

Thanks to the dedication and devotion, we became the leader of Eastern Poland and one of the most dynamically growing cities

Thanks to the dedication and devotion, we became the leader of Eastern Poland and one of the most dynamically growing cities

“Lublin is a friendly, open, and safe city.”

Krzysztof Żuk was born on 21 June 1957 in Krasnystaw. In 1990 he obtained the PhD degree in economics at the Maria Curie Skłodowska University in Lublin. From 1990 to 1996 he was head of the town council in Świdnik. In 1996 he became the director of the Lublin branch of the Minister of the Treasury. After the local government elections in 2006, he was appointed deputy mayor of Lublin. A year later he became the undersecretary of state in the Ministry of Treasury. In 2009 he retired from the post in the government administration, returning to the position of the deputy mayor of Lublin. On March 16, 2010, he joined the Civic Platform and in the elections in the same year he was elected mayor of Lublin.

You describe Lublin as the City of Inspiration, why? Tell more about your town.

In the city of Lublin, there is a special connection between multicultural heritage, unique monuments, architecture, and the beauty of nature and landscape. In addition to that, Lublin offers a wide range of original cultural activities, as well as dynamic cultural life, which is created and spread by the creative community of artists and culture professionals. Every year, the city of Lublin hosts a huge amount of cultural events, and festivals which not only boast an international reputation, but also bring hundreds of citizens and tourists. All of that makes Lublin’s aura so marvellous, and requires one’s attendance to fully understand and experience its magic.

In recent years, our main endeavours were to develop Lublin into a metropolis. Today, we can say that Lublin has become such a metropolis. We want to make the most out of the potential that we have, while simultaneously share the mentioned potential with the entire region. Thanks to the dedication and devotion, we became the leader of Eastern Poland and one of the most dynamically growing cities of Poland. The city which is charming to tourists, and fills its citizens with pride. The key to the improvement of transportation accessibility of Lublin was building of road network and an airport. It also made Lublin more noticeable to the investors, who can create new jobs. Today we have the record low unemployment rate, which – since the political transformation of 1989 - reached its lowest level of 6%.  After over 30 years we managed to complete and put the biggest theatre building in the region of Eastern Poland into service. The building which was referred to as “Theatre Under Construction,” turned into Centre for the Meeting of Cultures – a modern institution at the European level. The area has also changed, it now serves its citizens, contributes to the image of Lublin and its region as a whole. The newly renovated Old Theatre and Centre for Culture, also contribute to the city’s image. Yet we do not limit ourselves to bigger events in the city centre. Apart from these, we also focus on culture in other districts of Lublin. We invest in new community centres and library branches, while simultaneously trying to engage the citizens in the cultural life.

Thanks to the EU funds we improve and develop the sports and leisure facilities. Aqua Lublin – a modern complex consisting of the Olympic-size swimming pool, and leisure centre – has been put into service. Over 40 thousand spectators from Poland, Sweden and Slovakia watched the European Championship U21 at the Lublin Arena. This facility serves the whole region, and can hold over 15 thousand people. In 2019, our city will host another huge event – FIFA U-20 World Cup. We are already looking forward to welcome all the football lovers from around the Europe. In July of 2018, the city of Lublin hosted the Poland Senior Championships in Athletics. It was possible only because of the modernization of the athletics stadium. Apart from big investments, the city has also built playing fields and swimming pools in various districts of the city while also financing sports classes.

One of the most important factors of Lublin’s development is culture. In 2017 the whole city became huge scene of the 700th anniversary of Lublin being granted city rights – one of the greatest events in the recent history of Lublin. The citizens contributed a lot to the celebrations, which made it even more spectacular. The celebration itself was a manifestation of the civic engagement. The process of its preparation, based on the social participation became a unique experience for all of us. The investment in sociocultural infrastructure contributed in development of citizen engagement to a large extent

Lublin is a friendly, open, and safe city. We strive to support families – around one third of the city’s budget is annually spent on education. Thanks to these resources we are one of the best educating cities in Poland. We provide the most deprived with the support of social assistance. Young parents also receive help from the city – mainly thanks to the financial support of kindergartens, and free public transport for children and teenagers.

Over the recent years, Lublin has undergone a great change. It was possible thanks to effective strategy and complete dedication to its finalising. Apart from that, the commitment of the citizens on the development of their city led us to the place where we are at today.

Lublin is a very award-winning city, from various European and world organizations and competitions. What is the prize you are most proud. And for which title do you dream and work hard?

Lublin is the 5th Polish city which was awarded with Europe Prize - the highest distinction that can be bestowed on a European town for its actions in the European domain by the Parliamentary Assembly. We managed to reach the highest level in the 4-level Europe Prize award system. I believe that this award is the most precious one, due to the fact that it summarises our long-standing endeavours and shows that Lublin has proven its position as Centre for Eastern Competences.

Before we were able to be awarded with this prestigious distinction, we had to pave the way for us. In 2007 Lublin received The European Diploma, in 2008 The Flag of Honour, and finally, in 2013 The Plaque of Honour. Only one prize is awarded each year to a single city in Europe. However, there is a long-standing qualification process leading to that.

According to the opinion of The Europe Prize Sub-Committee, Lublin has hugely developed its international cooperation and stands out when it comes to the collaboration with twinned towns. In addition to that, Lublin has shown bonds with foreign local communities, and organized pro-European events. The Committee has awarded the distinction for organizing ceremonies celebrating Europe Day, cultural events, annual Eastern Europe Initiatives Congress, and also for humanitarian aid in Georgia and Ukraine.

The city is a hub of bustling cultural life, with around 70 cultural festivals and events held annually, attracting a wide audience. How you finance them?

According to the plans specified in Strategy of Cultural Development, we want culture to be the source of high standard of life in Lublin, and make use out of its capability to strengthen personal development of citizens and the whole community. In recent years, there has been a dynamic development of culture in Lublin. It all started with participation of Lublin in The European Capital of Culture bid. This complex process, including both unprecedented internal mobilization and cooperation with outstanding European experts, helped Lublin's culture professionals and community leaders to define their needs, set priorities and directions for development.

It also contributed to the awakening of the cultural life. This is why there are many more festivals, and the scale of other projects is growing. We were able to make a lot of new investments which now benefit the citizens of Lublin and Lublin region thanks to the effective use of EU funds. 

Such a growth rate would never be possible without securing adequate financial resources. We increased the expenditure on culture in the city budget almost three times. We use numerous tools for financing culture, and the most important events are organized by municipal cultural institutions, financed by the city. Support is also provided through programs of the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage or other units of local government administration.

Participatory mechanisms, such as local initiative, own contribution, and civil budget enable the fulfilment of cultural and social activities. Additionally, artists of Lublin can benefit from well-developed scholarship programme.

Every year, summer time in Lublin begins with the Night of Culture. Tell more about this summer magic.

The Night of Culture is one of the biggest festivals in Lublin. There are more than hundred events that take place simultaneously around the entire city. The exceptional aura of this event brings around 100 thousand people every year. Night of Culture is a manifestation of cultural potential of the city, accelerated by local artists and culture professionals. Additionally some top Polish and European artists are invited to take part in the project. Due to the fact that the art can be found around the city, we have an opportunity to cope with art spontaneously, as “by the way.” The visitors appreciate the open-air concerts, incredible artistic instalments, street vernissage, and astonishing performances of street artists. The ambience of this whole event is full of magic and energy, which makes the audience feel special bond with the artists, effectively rendering them unified.  All the events make up for an amazing vibe which fills the citizens of Lublin with pride, and puts a good memory of Lublin in tourists’ minds.

Lublin has signed agreements with numerous cities with its eastern and the western neighbours. How do you exchange experience with other mayors?

Good cooperation of cities equals daily connection between institution and citizens. Mutual projects are conducted mainly by city councils, cultural institutions, non-governmental organizations, but they are also conducted through school partnerships, participation in cultural events, and sports competitions.

Cooperation is different for every city. One of the first twinned towns of Lublin was Nancy in France. Thanks to that experience, we could rebuild the autonomy in Poland. In the 90’ we conducted a social politics training course for the officials, and whilst creating Resident Affairs Bureau we were observing the expertise of French partners, as well as pushing forth the exchange programmes. 

On the 30th anniversary of partnership, we signed an agreement on the creation of European Centre for teaching activities and studies in the field of European integrity. It is a common initiative of Lublin, Nancy, UMCS, Lorraine University and three Ukrainian universities.

Today, the numerous group of twinned towns consists of those which are located in the Ukraine.  First mutual activities concerned the cooperation of cultural institutions. Together with the twinned towns of Ukraine, we conducted dozens of projects concerning practices of self-government, promotions, tourism, culture, and ecology. The most important part of this cooperation, however, concerned self-government reform of Ukraine. Elected representative can look at our solutions of participation, for example: civil budget, the way Resident Affairs Bureau functions, organization of public transport, or municipal police. Every month we host interns from Ivano-Frankivs, Sumy, and Lviv.

The event which shows Lublin’s importance in Europe, is the annual Eastern Europe Initiatives Congress. This year its main topic will be building of close relations in regional cooperation of countries of Central and Eastern Europe in the context of 100 years old tradition. In September, over thousand elected representatives, experts and leaders of civil organizations from European Union and Eastern Partnership, as a part of  will be exchanging the experiences about local democracy, business and innovations, politics and security, culture, science and education, equality, as well as heritage and unity. 

The cooperation with twinned towns brings very practical results. One of many examples is Lublin Airport, which is connected to a dozen of other facilities. Lublin’s popularity can also be noticed by looking at the percentage of foreign students, since it is the highest in Poland. Today, Lublin is second most popular city for studying – there are 6500 students from abroad.

What do you think about a unified platform for European municipalities – TheMayor.EU, and one of its main goal to support the exchange of experience and information between the EU mayors? How can we be useful to you?

It is possible to utilize any tool which makes cooperation and exchange of experiences easier. From my point of view, it is important for to be open, and to strengthen their connections not only with the members of European Union, but also countries which find themselves at various levels of European integrity. In the Balkans, as well as in the Eastern Europe, where there are the closest neighbours who are not members of the European Union. We do, and will consider them important partners.

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